Ok everyone. Brace yourselves, because this one is going to get personal.
Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.
Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.
Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.
Wow. It has taken me a while to get this review together because I connected with this book on such a deep level. As soon as I started reading it, I related to that panicked feeling of needing more time, of trying to squeeze as much into each day as possible just to stay on top of things. Before I talk more about that, I want to mention the things I loved about this book.
I really enjoyed the insight into Jewish culture that this book provided. There were some particularly amazing foodie bits, which I’ve mentioned previously is something I love in books! And I, like Ariel, am a fan of sour candy 😉
It was lovely to see a great family setup for once and not the usual absentee parents we are used to. Ariel’s family are incredibly supportive when they realise what their son is going through. They also have great banter, which is another element that will make me love a book, particularly a contemporary.
I also have to mention the romance. The whole tutor/stuent situation gave me serious Autoboyography vibes and I adored it. These two boys were too cute. The Harry Potter references did get a bit much at times but I can understand why they were used, as it is something the target readership of this book will massively relate to. I also related even further to Ariel thanks to his excellent taste in music 😉
Aside from everything I enjoyed about this book, I did find it a difficult read. Watching Ariel’s struggles gave me all of the emotions. The spiralling thoughts, the crippling anxiety that makes you feel physically sick, I related so hard it was painful. I was the girl at sixth form studying for 5 A levels instead of the standard 3, as well as trying to fit in band practise for the school musical, extra-curricular music theory exams and volunteering. The pressure on young people these days to have their whole lives figured out before they leave school is too much.
Honestly, I had to stop reading this book at one point because I found myself in tears, feeling Ariel’s emotions radiating off the page. I knew I would relate to this book but didn’t expect to find it so triggering (and that’s not an issue I often have with books). That horrible feeling of time running away from you and the worry of sacrificing time with friends and family to get things done is something I feel like I’ve been living with for the longest time.
I’m really glad that this book exists to show young readers that the grades you get in school are not the be-all and end-all, and that there is more to life than studying. As much as I found it hard to read, I see it as a hugely important and valuable contribution to the YA literary market. I just wish it was around a few years ago when my study-related panic attacks started.
Have you read You Asked For Perfect? I’d love to hear from you! x